Master developer leaves office; no public notice given

Globe | Joe HadsallWorkers on Friday prepare an office in the Gryphon Building, formerly leased by Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, for a new client. Property manager Ginger Sweet said the firm, which is Joplin's master developer, is no longer a tenant.

Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, which is under contract to help guide Joplin’s recovery from the 2011 tornado, is no longer operating out of office space at the Gryphon Building on Main Street. It apparently left no specific forwarding address.

Globe attempts to talk to the firm’s key executives about the departure have been unsuccessful.

What’s more, officials with the city of Joplin, private businesses involved with the company and other entities either also are in the dark about the departure or are not talking about it. 

The telephone line to Wallace Bajjali’s main office in Sugar Land, Texas, does not connect. 

The firm’s principals, David Wallace and Costa Bajjali, have not returned Globe telephone calls, emails or text messages sent since Wednesday seeking comment about the move or the firm’s status.

Raymond Braswell, the firm’s chief operating officer, who has been working with the city on the Town Center project next to the site of the new Joplin Public LIbrary at 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue, answered his phone on Thursday and said he was at a doctor’s office and would call back, but he did not return the call later Thursday or on Friday.

Mayor Mike Seibert, asked Friday if city officials know what the status of the firm is, said,  “We don’t. We have no confirmation of anything. “ But he said that the city’s contract with Wallace Bajjali remains in place.

Ginger Sweet, property manager for the Gryphon Building, said that Wallace Bajjali is no longer a tenant in the building. Sweet said she was notified the firm was leaving the office and was told the firm was moving to one of its project sites.

Sweet said she could not comment on whether Wallace Bajjali was behind on rent or exited a lease prematurely. A new tenant began renovations on the office space this week, Sweet said. 

The mayor, asked if the 20th Street project is going forward, stopped short of a direct answer, saying only that the city is continuing its work to build the new public library and that the city is working “on other things” he could not discuss yet.

City Manager Sam Anselm said by email that Braswell attended a meeting with city staff on Thursday and affirmed that the Feb. 6 property purchases of the land for the 20th Street shopping and entertainment complex will go forward as planned from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. That city board has assembled land to hold tax-free for master development projects.

JRC Chairman Gary Duncan said this week he was not aware of any changes in the master developer’s status with the JRC work.

Anselm said city staff and Braswell discussed the infrastructure needs at the 20th and Connecticut site at the Thursday meeting.

Braswell had asked the city to provide about $4.3 million in street, sidewalk, street light and other infrastructure work for the project. The council authorized city staff to include those costs in a budget request that is to be considered by the federal Economic Development Administration, which is making a $25 million grant for the library construction and its site costs.

Some community leaders recently were subpoenaed to testify in a city audit conducted by state Auditor Tom Schweich.

One of those was Jane Cage, who served as chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team. CART recommended to the city the hiring of a master developer and recommended Wallace Bajjali. She said Friday she was unaware of any changes with the firm.

Schweich spokesman Spence Jackson, asked to release audit results regarding Wallace Bajjali, said none could be released until the audit report is finished.

Features Editor Joe Hadsall contributed to this report. 

Recommended for you